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4 Ways My Girlfriend Has Supported Me as Someone With a Disability

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My disability has always been interwoven with my fears and insecurities about love. I have often feared that I would not find a romantic relationship because of the flaws that my cerebral palsy creates. I worried that no one would find me attractive enough to be in a relationship with me, or be patient enough to help me physically with day-to-day tasks. But over the past six months, I was proven wrong by my girlfriend. Listed below are four ways that my girlfriend has shown me love, affection and support by helping me with the barriers caused by my disability.

1. She makes sure I never have to be alone.

As someone in my mid-20s, I find myself in parties and bars a lot. Unfortunately, these spaces often do not come with enough seats, and the expectation is that folks will stand in circles to talk or dance with each
other. While this is not a problem for an able-bodied 24-year-old, it is a nightmare for someone with cerebral palsy. My disability comes with intense leg pain, making standing for long periods of times very difficult. Even if I see an open chair, the problem quickly becomes that if I sit, I will be removing myself from the party, and isolating myself from everyone who is talking to me.

My girlfriend not only helps me find open seats, but she also will sit with me. Instead of being forced to isolate myself by sitting down, she comes with me. She will suggest that we move the conversation to a couch before I even have to ask – she can often see as I start to squirm from the stiffness in my legs.

She not only finds me a chair, but she sits with me. She not only makes sure I never have to sit alone, but she also matches my slower pace when we walk, and takes elevators and accessible entrances with me. She is always by my side – making sure my disability never forces me to take on the world alone.

2. She sees my strength.

This one is very important. My girlfriend knows the different aspects of my disability. She understands my stamina, my lowered speed and strength, and the ways that my cerebral palsy weakens me. She understands this and affirms it for what it is. But she also understands the ways that these weaknesses make me stronger – not just emotionally, but also physically. She remembers that every day, I am conquering immense pain. She knows I am exerting more energy than everyone else to complete simple tasks. And she sees this as strength – not as weakness or something to be pitied. She understands that my disability is not simply something to mourn, but something to celebrate.

3. She reminds me of my strength and worth.

Not only does she see and understand this strength, but she also reminds me of it when I cannot see it myself. Everyone has moments of weakened self-worth, but people with disabilities may have these moments more frequently, because society is constantly telling us that our bodies are less than and worse than an average able body.

My cerebral palsy causes me both physical and emotional pain. It hurts my joints, and it prevents me from doing activities I yearn to do. There was one day where my girlfriend was ice skating with her friends, and I watched from the sidelines – knowing I would never be able to balance on a pair of ice skates – and I hated my body for it.

My girlfriend reminds me of my strength and beauty during these hardest days. She recognizes my pain, but convinces me of my worth, and affirms that the weakness my disability causes is also the root of my deepest strength. She tells me often how much she admires me for my resilience, and always assures me that I am perfect in her eyes – disability and all.

4. She is my advocate.

My girlfriend will always ask about elevators and ramps in public spaces. She will be the one who speaks back and forth with wait staff or a bouncer to affirm that we do in fact need access to an elevator, even though my disability is often invisible. She never expects me to do this, but becomes my advocate for me. I never am by myself when I am fighting for accessibility in public spaces – she is always by my side. And when there are no elevators or ramps, she reserves tables on the first floor, or gives me a piggy-back ride up the steps. She is advocating for me and with me every step of the way.

My girlfriend is kind, supportive, intelligent, gentle and incredibly compassionate. She is my partner and my best friend. And when I am with her, I never feel less than. Instead, I feel whole and strong and beautiful. Being with her pushes me to be more resilient, to be bolder, to be more forgiving with myself and to be prouder of my body. She has deconstructed the false misconceptions that I am not worthy of a relationship because of my disability through conversations and daily acts.

I entered our relationship weary of becoming a burden to my partner because of the limitations my cerebral palsy causes. My girlfriend constantly reminds me that I am never a burden, but actually something she is very grateful for. She is teaching me to love myself and to accept myself more deeply, and to never sell myself short. And on this Valentine’s Day, I could not be more grateful to have her as my partner.

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Getty Image by savageultralight

Originally published: February 11, 2018
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